Giving voice and taking pictures: participatory documentary and visual research

Andrew Robinson


This paper compares the increasing use of photography and other media arts within social research with participatory approaches to socially engaged documentary and art based photographic practice. Discussion draws on the author's own experience as a photographer and filmmaker who has undertaken participatory documentation and research work in a range of different settings.  This includes a recent project undertaken as part of a research programme commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which saw the author working alongside social scientists who were utilising a range of alternative and visual research methods.  In conclusion, it is suggested that convergence and crossover between these different, but increasingly related, practices is deserving of further study.  A number of key issues are identified including: the detail of authorship; the influence of participant consent and related ethical concerns relating to engagement and outputs; the role and visibility of the facilitator; and the status of participatory art works as artefacts.